By Holly Dutton
Eric Hantman knows how to run a successful residential brokerage firm. Which is why he wants to keep his own boutique firm, Prime NYC, tight-knit and small.
“I really don’t want to be a 100-person or more company,” Hantman told Brokers Weekly.
“I see us as a 25-to-35 person boutique agency that really focuses on that personal connection and relationship and level of service, and just keep getting that repeat and referral client, and not just an army of agents that’s throwing advertising out there an hoping people call us. It’s easier to manage that way.”
Hantman, a native of Long Island, started Prime NYC in 2008 after three years at brokerage firm Homestead, where he made a big splash in just the first week at the firm when he sold a $2.5 million apartment.
“I didn’t know what I was doing, it was luck,ˮ he admitted. “I had a client that had a good budget and I sold a place at the Oculus on 15th Street.”
That client then referred Hantman to his brother, who bought a $1.5 million apartment in the same building.
“So it was hard to think there was any other job out there where you can make this much money in a short amount of time,” said Hantman.
“My options were to get recruited by the Ellimans and the Corcorans, or some other companies, but I’ve always been an entrepreneur,” said Hantman.
With a dedicated group of 10 agents and enough money to get started, Hantman formed Prime and moved into an office at 48 Wall Street in December 2008 — just as the economy was on a fast-track south.
“Inventory was not moving,” Hantman recalled. “Buyers were coming in thinking it was the end of the world offering 50 percent less than asking prices. So we really focused on rentals.”
In the company’s first year, agents did 150 rentals.
“At the time it, was very favorable for tenants to rent because of what happened with the crisis,” he said, recalling how management companies and owners were only too happy to cover brokers fees to help move their product.
Today, located in a prime spot on 11th Street in the East Village, Prime NYC has 15 agents in a three-floor office it shares with architectural firm Beyer Binder Belle, a company that has worked on projects ranging from the Grand Central Terminal and the St. Vincent’s conversion in the West Village.
“Since we started ,there’s been a shift in the focus of the company,” said Hantman. “Being almost five years old, we’re still young, but we’ve been around long enough to realize what’s going on in the market and where a boutique company like ours is going to fit in the overall scheme of the industry.”
Hantman said he focuses on keeping staff in-house and growing them until they can operate their own businesses.
“Now that we have 15 agents, we have some people that work out of the office and are completely independent and run their own operation,” he said. Those include agents in Brooklyn that have their own networks in popular neighborhoods like Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Fort Greene, and Williamsburg.
In his years in the industry, especially after the economic downturn, Hantman has learned that surrounding yourself with the right people is crucial to the company’s success.
“People who understand how to personally connect with others and also know a lot about inventory and neighborhoods and can be knowledgeable about all areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn,” he said.
“From managing other offices, I learned I wanted to be surrounded by the right people who could represent my clients and I wouldn’t have to worry about it. At the same time, I have a hands-on approach and I get involved in deals and, if anyone needs help, I’m here.”
While Prime has dabbled in commercial real estate, with a couple of retail leases and small building sales, Hantman has been focusing a little more on working with foreign investors buying bulk condo units.
“We’re seeing areas of opportunity in putting packages together for investors, especially Chinese investors, who want to put money in New York City real estate because, to them it’s a stable market and stable asset compared to the world economy or just having money sit in a bank account in China,” he said.
Hantman’s firm helps the investors every step of the way — from arranging property tours, to setting up investors with attorneys that speak Chinese, to partnering with private jet companies overseas to fly them to New York.
“We’ll try to do everything for them and be that one-stop-shop,” said Hantman.
In the future, Hantman is looking to work on development projects where his firm can come in and identify marketing and sales strategies from the very early stages.
It’s been picking up the tail ends of several such projects, successfully closing out sales. Most recently, Prime NYC took on the Cammeyer at 650 6th Avenue, a recession White Elephant that was revived following the crash and had 10 apartments left when Prime took over. To date, the firm has sold five of them.